Ben “Dr. Doolittle” Bernanke

  • by: |
  • 10/05/2006
Did you know that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke can talk to the animals? Specifically the 800-pound gorilla in the room – our aging baby boom generation.

Yesterday he addressed the issue that unless Social Security and Medicare are revamped, the massive burden from retiring baby boomers will place major strains on the nation's budget and the economy, said Wednesday.

"Reform of our unsustainable entitlement programs" should be a priority, he said in remarks to the Economics Club of Washington. "The imperative to undertake reform earlier rather than later is great," Bernanke added.

Bernanke suggested that, as the population ages, the nation will have to choose among higher taxes, less non-entitlement spending by the government, a reduction in spending on entitlement programs, a sharply higher budget deficit or some combination thereof.

Government spending on Social Security and Medicare alone will increase from about 7% of the total size of the U.S. economy to almost 13 percent by 2030 and to more than 15% by 2050, he said. Bernanke declared: "The fiscal consequences of these trends are large and unavoidable."

There are two additional crucial options we must aggressively pursue to address these generational and budgetary inevitabilities, (1) shift our public health paradigm from acute to chronic care and, (2) create more robust public health information campaigns focused on disease states that can be avoided/delayed through changes in lifestyle (for example diabetes, obesity, and cardio-vascular disease).

How? Many ways, including more robust personalized medicine, development of ever more targeted therapies, science-based prophylactic interventions (i.e., statins), and smart, well-funded, and prolonged public information campaigns funded by government and private industry -- both together and separately.

We must design and implement a 21st century baby boomer health care manifesto.

Can we do this? We must.

Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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